The Bodleian Libraries have been awarded £ 1.2 million [$1.9 million USD] by the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) towards the acquisition of the Personal Archive of William Henry Fox Talbot. The only significant Talbot collection remaining in private hands, this important archive is being sold for £2.2 million and the Bodleian Libraries have until the end of February to raise the remaining funds.
William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) was one of the greatest polymaths of the Victorian age, and is most famous today for being the British ‘founder of photography’. The archive contains great potential for fuller understanding of the breadth of Talbot’s scholarly activities, and of the influences exerted by the women in his family, in particular their educative roles, their shared interests in botany, languages, art, travel and history that are so central to Talbot’s work, and their roles as practitioners, supporters, and collectors of the new art.
The collection includes artefacts such as glassware and artworks that Talbot photographed for the ground-breaking publication The Pencil of Nature, the first book illustrated with photographs. There is a strong connection to Oxford, as the archive includes some of the first pictures of the city.
The Fox Talbot archive includes:
- original manuscripts by Talbot
- family diaries
- family drawing and watercolour albums and sketchbooks, including images made by Talbot’s mother, his wife, and by his sister
- early photographic images made by Talbot
- an image made by Talbot’s wife, c. 1839, which may be the earliest image made by a woman
- several hundred photographs received by Talbot – by other photographers from Britain and across the continent, contemporaries of Fox Talbot who shared their images and attempts at early photography
- portraits of Talbot and his family
- materials and artefacts related to the Lacock estate including estate plans, bills etc
- books from Talbot’s personal library
- musical scores from Talbot and his immediate family
- scientific instruments from Talbot’s own collection
- botanical specimen albums made by Talbot and members of his immediate family.
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